Iowa House Committee Backs Change for Lake Delhi Dam Reconstruction

By James Lynch, Reporter

Aerial view of the Lake Delhi Recreation Association Dam after it had been compromised.���� Mark Benischek/Sourcemediagroup

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By Aaron Hepker

DES MOINES, Iowa – Reconstruction of the dam at Lake Delhi got a boost from an Iowa House committee Tuesday, but not without opposition.

House Study Bill 163, approved largely along party lines in the Environmental Protection Committee, would allow reconstruction of the dam at the height of the spillway, which is about 6 feet lower than the top of the dam that was breached in 2010.

It’s the spillway, not the dam that determines the height of the pool on the Maquoketa River, according to Rep. Lee Hein, R-Monticello. However, Department of Natural Resources administrative rules require the dam to be rebuilt to the level of the top of the dam.

Those rules require the dam’s owners to own or have easements on any land that would be inundated by high water, DNR Director Chuck Gipp said. Building at the spillway height rather than the dam height would make the state – Iowa taxpayers -- liable for damages caused by high water, he said. That degree of flooding would be a 1,400-year flood, according to engineers on the project, Hein said.

That would require obtaining easements on land 10 miles upstream from the dam, according to Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan.

HSB 163 would allow a Lake Delhi exception to the DNR rules. It would require the people reconstructing the dam to have easements or own the land which was held prior to the reconstruction as long as the former normal pol elevation is not exceeded and the spillway capacity is increased by at least 50 percent. Hein said the new spillway will increase capacity by about 70 percent.

That change was approved on a voice vote. A change to limit the DNR’s share of the cost of dredging the lake to the percentage of public ownership of lake frontage failed on a party line vote. Rep. Marti Anderson, D-Des Moines, said that was less than 2 percent.

The bill was sent to the full House with all Republicans on the committee and Rep. Daniel Lundby, D-Marion, backing it.
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